Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Advice to a daughter (with kids) in a warming world

"As the temperature starts to rise abnormally because of human activity, feedback mechanisms will turn harmful in their effect, and put the situation beyond our control." James Lovelock, Independent, 16 January 2006.

Alsaskan glacier, taken by my father. Alaska is warming fast!I'd sent my daughter the above link which describes the grim future which is likely for people in a warming world. She, obviously, is most concerned about her own two children's future. This was my response to her worried reply.

Lovelock's gloomy prediction is depresssing, of course, but I was of the generation which grew up with the serious threat of nuclear armageddon. And we all just carried on doing the things ordinary people do, hoping that matters would improve. They did. I think Lovelock's is very much the worst case scenario and he may be wrong about irreversibility having been reached already. We have to assume that we still have time and do our damndest to kick the politicians into some serious action. Obviously, actions begin at home, but we need much more than this. It's all very well me turning the heating off and refusing to fly but it influences hardly anyone. What is needed is carbon rationing right now, internationally. How can we make the politicians do it?
(For details of how carbon rationing might work, try this guide:

It's not just apathy: We had a friend and his wife for a meal recently. Nice pair, normal people, quite aware... and they're about to fly off to Australia for a holiday for 5 weeks. Then he's off skiing. He knows the basic issues but somehow, like almost everyone, he must feel that what he does makes no difference and doesn't really believe warming is happening so he might as well enjoy life. How can we tackle this understandable view?

Linked in to all this is the staggering increase in global population. When I was born (1946), there were about 2350 million people. It's now almost 6.5 billion.

As for Amy and Thomas' future, I think low-key thoughtful preparation for a more difficult world would be a sensible option. You're better placed than many to become moderately able to grow your own food and fuel. Could you also influence their school to teach more in the way of self reliance and alternatives to oil-based lifestyles? Please don't despair: there's plenty to live for and we all have to die of something!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sad remains

This is all that remains of the glacier below El Tallon (3130 metres) in the Pyrennees. It was gushing meltwater when I examined it close up in the evening in June 2005. Another few hot summers and it'll be gone. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Trapped: it's the planet, stupid!

All is not well with our planet as we are regularly reminded by a string of reports, the latest being the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. And the fault is ours. Though politicians make speeches paying lip service to the environment, business continues as usual. Coal is mined; forests are burned; people still fly off on holidays; the planet warms. So why can’t we free ourselves from this relentless cycle of resource overuse? Are we locked in to an economic system, depending as it does on exploitation, even though we know it’s a system that’s bound to come tumbling down (maybe taking most of us with it)? Are we trapped into pillaging of the planet’s life support systems even though we know it can’t go on?

Even now, many countries behave as if they were not all connected to and dependent on the biosphere, a lesson still not understood − particularly by nationalists. The universal excuse for doing nothing is always ‘the economy’.

So what’s being done? Not much. What are the stumbling blocks: one, ironically, is democracy because it ensures that nothing unpopular can be done; worse is outright denial that there’s a problem at all. Yet there is a way forward, difficult but possible. Otherwise we’re back to the dilemma we all face: the planet’s cry for help isn’t getting through. It seems we really are trapped.